Metro Exodus Review – Raising the Bar for Future Open World Games

    Title: Metro Exodus
    Developer: 4A Games
    Release Date: February 15, 2019
    Reviewed On: Xbox One
    Publisher: Deep Silver
    Genre: First-Person Shooter

Exploring the post-apocalyptic world in a video game has been done many times. However, I never felt that any have done it as well as the Metro series. I was drawn to its hardcore approach of immersing the player in a setting that is crumbling around them with a focus on story and choice as they explored the underground metro of Moscow while braving the radiated soil of the world above.

Metro Exodus brings many expectations from fans of the series as it must raise the bar that was already set pretty high by its predecessor Metro: Last Light. Surprisingly, the developers decided not to double down on the safe approach of bringing the player back to the metro from before. Instead, they stepped out of their comfort zone to deliver a game that not only feels like a true Metro sequel, but an overall amazing gaming experience that exceeds all expectations.

Metro Exodus introduces the protagonist of the series Artyom who is once again being the lone wolf type as he follows a possible lead that human life exists outside of Moscow after hearing a strange radio signal. While out searching for more answers, he and his wife, Anna, are abducted and taken to a secret base where they discover that high levels of the government have been jamming radio signals because the war never actually ended and Moscow has been playing dead for years in an effort to escape another nuclear attack.

This is where Artyom’s journey takes off as he gathers a small group of Spartans and Anna’s father, who knew all about the radio jamming, to search for answers as well as a way to pardon Artyom and Anna for disturbing their anti-conflict efforts. The group travels by train through Russia to several destinations that each introduce their own conflicts and challenges in this light-hearted road trip adventure (we’re just kidding, it’s far from light-hearted). The environments in Metro Exodus are as unforgiving as they are beautiful and are completely different than anything the series has presented to date.

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In terms of what fans will remember from previous Metro titles, Metro Exodus still has straight forward dungeons that require players to go through tunnels or multiple rooms of a building as they flip switches and unlock doors to open up a new area that will progress the narrative. Similarly, there are also enemy strongholds that players will encounter where they’ll need to stealthily make their way through enemy defenses. Although these features aren’t anything new to Metro fans, the way Metro Exodus presents them is far different than fans will remember.

In Metro Exodus, players are able to freely roam around several open world style maps. Although these worlds can’t be compared to the size of maps found in Grand Theft Auto 5 or Fallout 3, I think what the developers at 4A Games proved that by focusing on these smaller open world maps, they could create an amazing experience for players no matter where they found themselves. Depending on what kind of player you are, every playthrough in Metro Exodus will be different. No matter where I found myself, there was always something to explore or some event that I could take part in if I wanted to. The choices that I made not only affected what kind of person Artyum will become but also the moral of my comrades who are joining me on the trip.

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Metro Exodus has an amazing story to tell for fans who wish to sit through it all. There are crucial story scenes that require the players’ attention as they learn of their new objective, but there are also moments when the player can just walk away if they don’t wish to stand around and talk to the characters. With that said, walking away could limit the number of side quests given to the player or leads to interesting spots that will be added to your map. I’ll say that those who stick around to listen to what these characters have to say or just sit back and witness them interacting with one another are in for an amazing treat of character development and immersion that Metro Exodus is not shy to give the player. However, just like exploring the maps in many areas, these conversations are optional.

I couldn’t help but spend time standing near characters just to see if they’ll notice me. Not only did they react to my presence, but they went on to tell me their story and feelings about a mission or event. I learned about how each my comrades would react and what their strengths and weaknesses are. After going out of my way to find a guitar in the field, I was even able to play a song with them during an interaction that would have never had happened if I just ran my way through the main missions. Exploring in Metro Exodus always yields rewards whether in materials and upgrades or important intel and the chance to save someone. Getting through Metro Exodus isn’t a race, it’s an extremely long marathon, and I was never once disappointed while hanging around for a few minutes to listen to my crew crack jokes or inform me of something that they want me to go get for them if I find the time.

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Weapons and crafting play a huge role in Metro Exodus, I was able to gather materials from around the map that I can be put towards creating some of the most intricate and unique weapons I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, each enemy on that you take down yields some loot as well as lets you take apart their weapons for new parts that can be added to your guns. What’s interesting about Metro Exodus is that over time, your weapon will get dirty and will decrease in power until it’s properly cleaned. The weapon getting dirty isn’t random or out of place in the story, because you are technically running through mud and crawling through filthy radiated areas. In the end, this just adds another layer to the immersion that Metro Exodus provides.

And that brings me to what makes Metro Exodus so damn good. The developers did everything they possibly could to make me feel like I was a part of this world, but unlike the previous entries in the series, Metro Exodus made me believe that my playthrough was unique to me. However, this does come with a layer of difficulty as you find yourself searching for a gas mask or completely running out of bullets in a heated gunfight, Metro Exodus wants you to believe that this new world isn’t going to go easy on you, and that means running into a room guns blazing is probably the last thing you should do.

Stealth in this game is very similar to Metro: Last Light. Players must hide in the shadows and extinguish light sources before an enemy spots them. With that said, enemy AI didn’t really pose a real threat to me on any other mode outside of the Ranger difficulty, which is possibly the most immersive way to play the game given that it completely removes the HUD from your screen. On easier difficulties, the enemy will spot you and then mindlessly run around, take cover, shoot, and move somewhere else until you take them down. I have to say, as much as I enjoyed stealthily invading a camp and taking out everyone, it had the ability to feel a little cheap when an enemy couldn’t see me just because I was in the shadow of some boxes. However, on Ranger difficulty, well, let’s just say it’s better to just never get caught.

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Metro Exodus has an interesting karma system that does have some weight on the story and how things play out. Similarly, players do have the option of just knocking out enemies instead of killing them. This includes hostile natives who aren’t technically bad. This choice of right and wrong is ultimately up to the player, and although Anna will scold you for doing things the wrong way, the payout is often extra loot or additional routes. Some interactions with friendly characters are also determined by whether or not you have your gun holstered as you approach them. Cause and effect need to be taken into consideration during every interaction in the game.

Being a semi-open world game, there were some bugs that I found, such as dead enemies spazzing on the floor after I took them out and enemy AI coming off as stupid as I climbed the side of building right next to them and made noise, but just because I wasn’t in their line of vision of they couldn’t sense me. Also, walking downstairs in the game always proved to be difficult because Artyom would just kind of jump down as if he was going down a cliff. However, that and some annoying moments dealing with pestering creature enemies that like to jump on your boat in the water were really all that I could find to criticize the game on. Metro Exodus‘ strengths are that the story is shaped by the player and how they wish to approach what the game has handed them. This made it easy for me to just play the game the way I wanted to which benefited greatly to how much fun I was having.

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Metro Exodus has an amazing story to tell that is difficult to avoid. The developers at 4A Games have created a world that feels alive and begs to be explored. This is a game that doesn’t hold the player’s hand as it takes you on Artyom’s journey across Russia. I fell in love with the game’s many characters and found myself hanging around camp just so I can make sure to catch everything they had to say. When I would leave, the passage of time felt real as the crew made sure to fill me in on everything that I missed out on.

Throughout its jump scare-inducing dungeons and many optional missions, Metro Exodus provides what Metro fans love about the series and so much more. Each playthrough is unique and every story will be different as Metro Exodus gives the player the choice of how they wish to take on Artyom’s mission to find new life. A few physics glitches couldn’t stop me from completely falling in love with this game and I can’t wait to play through it again so that I can make more discoveries and new stories in this dark and beautiful adventure.

Score:
9.3/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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